Archive for Law

Just Say No (To Drug Laws)

Turns out that punishment doesn’t decrease the number of people smoking marijuana. My source? No, not Cannabis Culture. Actually, the British Crime Survey (the equivalent of FBI crime statistics) released today found that the number of 16- to 24-year olds using marijuana has fallen 7 percent in the last decade, even though it was downgraded from a class B illegal drug (up to 5 years in prison) to a class C drug (up to 2 years) in 2004. In fact, since it was downgraded, it has fallen each year. Aside from being an ostrich-sized egg in the face of PM Brown, who’s taken up Reagan’s mantle, spreading urban myths about “super-weed” and trying to put marijuana back on the B list, it’s a bit of a blow to American drug policy, especially the “lock kids up ’til they have gray hair” part. Which is, of course, the only part of American drug policy.

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I Do Love My State

I have been sans internet (and worse, sans news) for the last several weeks, so I’m sorry for the sudden disappearance of sane, conservative-taunting, bleeding heart commentary you’ve come to expect from me.

With that out of the way, I have this little bit of news I heard last night listening to my local Air America/Nova M/Mother Jones radio station. Oregon is now the seventh state to protect student journalists in high school and college from censorship, even from their parents. If a student-run paper is censored by the administration, they can now sue for relief (a provision that would allow for recovery of attorney fees was stricken from the bill, unfortunately). A small victory, yes, but a sweet one.

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Why We Have Hate Crime Laws

I just read this wonderful article by Michael Dorf on FindLaw about Bush’s threat to veto the proposed hate crimes bill. He points out that, while it is possible to argue against hate crime laws in general on the basis of constitutionality, Bush’s real motive is more likely homophobia. Well, that’s a little obvious, but it needed to be said.

Anyway, I was listening to Thom Hartmann on Friday, and he and his callers were talking about the veto and why we need hate crime laws in the first place. Thom said that the reason we have harsher punishments for crimes motivated by hatred towards a certain group is because it is intended to spread fear. (Which, BTW, is not prohibited by the First Ammendment; see Virginia vs. Black. Fuck off, libertarians.)

True, but the main reason we must have federal hate crime laws is because local law enforcement (especially in conservative areas, where hate crimes are more likely to take place) tends to turn a blind eye to crimes against blacks, gays, transexuals, etc. Hate crime laws allows the federal government to step in and investigate a crime when the local authorities fail to do so.

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I Love Troll-Baiting

Check out this exchange between me (and some other enlightened folk) and a lonely troll.

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A Huge Step Forward

Great news out of Egypt tonight. The Grand Mufti of Egypt (one of the most respected scholars of Islamic law) has issued a fatwa saying that premarital hymen reconstructive surgery is halal (religiously permissable), and that women don’t need to tell their future husbands about it. He even went so far as to say that a woman is under no obligation to tell her husband that she had premarital sex if she has repented. I can’t be sure, since I can’t find the actual fatwa, but the newspaper article made it seem like this applies even to adultery.

The best part? Another scholar (Shiekh Khaled El Gindy) has chimed in, saying that the reason for this fatwa is that “Islam never differentiates between men and women, so it is not rational for us to think that God has placed a sign to indicate the virginity of women without having a similar sign to indicate the virginity of men.” Apparently he also has a similar sense of humor as I do, since he added that “Any man who is concerned about his prospective wife’s hymen should first provide a proof that he himself is virgin.” (I want to meet this guy!)

So, next time someone tells you that Islam is inherently misogynistic, point them here. It’s happening slowly, but it’s making strides.

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Ancient Rome, Final Exams, and the Death Penalty

I just finished my first final exam—Latin Prose—and now I only have to write two term papers and study for a chemistry exam. Anyway, for my exam we had to translate a good chunk of Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae (The Catilinarian Conspiracy) and write a “linguistic and historical analysis” of another chunk. Not entirely painless, but not pulling teeth, either.

What brings me to write about this is a speech by Julius Caesar that Sallust quotes. After Catiline, a traitor against Rome, has been discovered, there is a debate in the Senate over whether to execute him (which was illegal, since he was a Roman citizen). After a rather obscure senator named Decimus Silanus (I’m still waiting for Biggus Dickus) makes a speech urging for the death penalty, Julius Caesar—the future emperor of Rome and one of the best prosecutors of the day—makes a speech against the death penalty.

So Caesar was more civilized—2000 years ago—than we are today.

I think anti-death penalty advocates could learn a thing or two from Caesar. He doesn’t dispute that Catiline and his co-conspirators are a threat, or that they deserve death. Instead he says, essentially, “yes, we have the power to revoke the Porcian Law (which protected Roman citizens from execution) but we shouldn’t because it is not worthy of us and will set a dangerous precedent.” I think that we need to refocus the debate on these two arguments. We are honestly getting nowhere with the arguments that capital punishment is unconstitutional (and will get nowhere for some time), or that it doesn’t prevent murder, or that we’re executing innocent people. We need to say that we are a compassionate people, and a nation of just laws. We are not a people that indulges in mob violence, and we are not a nation of retribution. We must say that the death penalty is perfectly legal, but that we ought to rise above petty retribution.

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More on Maryland’s Rape Decision

Even over at Feministing, which covered Maryland’s rape ruling decision when it came out, the readers seem to think that the decision might be valid. I’m not going to get into the particulars of the case, just the decision.

The case hinges on whether Maryland accepts the old common law definition of rape as a crime against the husband or father, rather than the victim. The Maryland court held that, until Maryland’s legislature rejects the common law definition of rape, it stands. Unfortunately for the decision, Maryland has rejected the common law definition. The legislature has made it clear that if a man rapes his wife, it is still a crime. I would say that this rejects the common law definition pretty clearly.

Also, since Maryland’s rape law says that it is a crime to “engage in vaginal intercourse with another by force, or the threat of force, without the consent of the other,” and both “engaging in vaginal intercourse” and consenting are ongoing acts, the law itself (adopted in 1957) obviously makes continuing the intercourse after the victim withdraws consent a crime.

The only way they could have reached this decision is if they had decided it before they looked at the case law. It’s ridiculous.

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